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Decatur city leader says it’s important immigrants are comfortable reporting crimes

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DECATUR, Ala. - The Decatur Police Department released a revised immigration policy after Mayor Tab Bowling took to social media expressing concerns about the document over the weekend. The policy explains how the police department is supposed to work with Immigration and Custom Enforcement officers.

To view a side-by-side comparison of the old and revised policies click here.

Decatur city leaders want to make the town nearly 55,0000 people call home is safe.  Charles Kirby, the District 4 representative on the city council,  says the city has worked for years to ensure that immigrants feel comfortable reporting crimes without fear of retribution.

"We have held community meetings ever since I've been in office and it's clear that you're dealing with a population that back home where they come from didn't trust their government there and are very skeptical, very concerned about making waves here," Kirby said. "If a portion of your population will not report the crimes, then all of us lose our security. We all become at risk for more crime if people are just afraid to report crime."

It appears a revised immigration policy for the police department went into effect on September 25. Last weekend, Mayor Bowling criticized the policy in a post on Facebook saying "Decatur will not be a sanctuary city".

Kirby says the police department does not need the council's approval to revise policies.

"The first time I ever heard of this happening is when the mayor questioned it. In all the years that I've been on the council, in the years before when I attended council meetings I never, ever saw a police department come in asking for approval of their policy," Kirby explained.

Monday, the DPD, the mayor's office, and the city's legal department released a joint statement saying they were working to clarify the policy and clear up some misunderstandings or vagueness.

The revised policy was released Tuesday.

The policy from September 25 laid out procedures that explained more about when DPD would work with ICE. The newer version talks more about how the department will work with ICE.

Both policies say police officers shall strive to treat all individuals equally and fairly -  regardless of their immigration status. They both also say an individual's right to file a police report or otherwise receive services from DPD is not contingent upon their citizenship or immigration status.

WHNT News 19 reached out to Mayor Tab Bowling to ask if he was concerned some residents may not report crimes or come forward as witnesses because they're afraid of being deported. He referred us to sections 8 and 9 of the new policy.

Section 8 says, "Officers shall strive to treat all individuals equally and fairly regardless of their immigration status."

Section 9 says, " Officers shall not inquire into the immigration status of persons encountered during police operations unless reasonable suspicion or probable cause exists to believe the person committed a crime and the person is believed to be undocumented. Officers shall not ask any individual to produce a passport, Alien Registration Card (Green Card) or any other immigration documentation. This does not prohibit an officer from considering these documents as appropriate forms of identification when voluntarily provided by the individual to establish someone’s identity. Referrals to ICE concerning detainers or apprehension shall be made in accordance to number 6."

A representative from the police department told us in a text message, "We're fortunate to have a relationship with the Decatur Hispanic community through churches and civil groups. We certainly don't want to lose that connection. Decatur is not a sanctuary city."

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